Surf turn vs trim: a classic beginner mistake in surfing

Using this simple surf turn drill, you will turn more securely and ride waves longer

The surf turn is one of the most undeveloped part of surfing when you are a beginner.

Controlling the board and utilizing the entire wave face will lead you to the next level of surfing. One of the most common mistakes: trying to trim your board instead of carving a turn.

Learn how to turn better practicing this simple drill at home (you can download the tracking worksheet here — with videos).

Quick analysis — why you fall in the water when doing the bottom turn

Not being able to do carving turns is probably the one thing what holds back surfers from improving in wave control. Instinctively we always trim our turns.

The problem is:

  • You are using your torso instead of your legs.
  • You are leaning too much with your upper body instead of weighing your back leg to pivot the board.
  • You don’t want to lock up the knees or stay too tall during turning.

How to turn the most efficiently

To successfully execute a nice turn you should pay attention to the foundations:

1, Right foot placement: maximize your control over your board

  • Like all turns you need to get your foot as far back as possible. Put more pressure on the back foot
  • It will help you keep your board steady and control the rails.
  • Compress your body — make your body small as you would do a regular squat!
  • Keep your knees bent — a low center of gravity provides better balance (kind of like loading up a string)

2, Arm movement: maintain a fluid upper body motion.

  • One key to all turns lies in the motion of your upper body. (chest, shoulder, arm movement)
  • Trailing hand is almost touching the water as if to use it as a pivot to hang on to. Everything rotates around your trailing hand.
  • Always keep your leading arm outside your knee.

3, Head movement:

  • Remember to keep your eyes and head focused in the direction you would like to go throughout the turns. You always want to look at the section you want to hit — keep your eyes on the “target”.

How to practice catching waves at an angle at home


1, Create a line on the floor by using masking tape or rubber band/string. Stand on the line in the correct surf position as it were the center line of your board.

  • Arms spread out nicely for more balance
  • Torso (chest) is facing forward)
  • Knees are squeezed (see the Charleston drill for practice)

2, Put something parallel next to your feet 40–60 cm away from you on both side, or create an „X” with masking tape. Imagine that this is the center of a circle.

These two “X”-s will be the target what you want to reach with your trailing hand during the squats (do turns in both directions).

3, Compress your body, bend your knees as much as you can and try to reach the spot with your leading hand. Shift your hip backward — put more weight on the back foot!

4, Use the turning worksheet to track your progress

I created a simple surf turn worksheet that you can download here to track your progress. (we even shot videos for you to make it easier to understand!)

Print it out and put it somewhere where you can regularly see it (e.g. on the fridge door or on your dining table). This will nudge you to do this exercise more. You will see your progress clearly.

By following the instructions on the worksheet, you will turn more securely, ride waves longer and have more fun surfing. And that is what matters.

Because fun in surfing = catching the most waves during your session.

Let me know if this helped you, or what you want me to cover next by emailing me at [email protected], or sign up below!



Do you know what is the number 1 thing holding back your progress in surfing?

Takes 2 minutes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *